Sugar provides so much more than sweetness. This is why keto-friendly sweet baked goods come with unique challenges.

Aldi offers keto chocolate chip cookies that have zero grams net carbs per serving. Almond flour is the first ingredient. There’s nothing vegan about these cookies, as butter and egg whites are key ingredients. Erythritol and stevia deliver solids and sweetness. The chocolate chips rely on inulin and erythritol.

“Classic chocolate chip cookies utilize gluten from flour to create a structure to the cookie and sugar to help build out the bulk,” said Casey McCormick, director of product development, Sweegen. “Almond flour and egg whites together can help rebuild the structure, while inulin and erythritol can create the bulk along with compensating for some of the missing sweetness. A stevia ingredient with a higher sweetness equivalence can provide the remaining gap in sweetness.”

Inulin also provides nutritional benefits on top of functionality that can be appealing for keto-conscious consumers.

“Inulin — and its shorter-fructose-chain counterpart, oligofructose — work very well in chocolate chip cookies to provide a source of proven prebiotic fiber to support digestive health,” said Kyle Krause, North American regional product manager, Beneo Inc. “These ingredients differ in terms of degree of polymerization, thus can be chosen accordingly to help with the type of texture wanted in such a cookie: soft or crispy.”

With some sweet treats, chewy is the target texture. The Clif Bar & Co., for example, now offers Luna Keto Brownie Bites, which were designed to have a texture that mimics a fudgy brownie. The first five ingredients are cassava fiber, almond flour, dates, soy protein concentrate and sugar-free (chocolate) chips.

“Erythritol is not a stand-alone ingredient in bakery products because it misses some of sugar’s key functional properties,” said Tim Christensen, certified master baker, Cargill. “While it does contribute sweetness and bulk and helps lower water activity, erythritol doesn’t give the spread we expect in some baked goods nor will it contribute to browning.

“Soluble fibers like inulin are often used to counterbalance erythritol’s cooling effect,” he continued. “Erythritol has a high negative heat of solution, creating a cooling sensation when dissolved in the mouth. This cold sensation happens because erythritol absorbs energy from its surroundings as it dissolves. Soluble fibers like inulin have a positive heat of solution, making them perfect partners in many applications.”

ADM offers a complete toolbox of keto-friendly ingredients. This includes an extensive portfolio of oil and shortening solutions that build back mouthfeel in baked goods and add healthful fats.

“Our coconut oil is a popular keto-friendly option as it has high saturated fat content and provides great taste,” said Jeff Hodges, bakery scientist at ADM. “Our resistant tapioca starch is 90% dietary fiber. It can replace flour, even at high inclusion levels, all while offering a clean, neutral taste.”

Mr. Christensen said that with higher fat levels, it may be necessary to increase usage of an emulsifier. Lecithin is a clean label example that can help ensure even fat distribution for better product quality and longer shelf life.

As the keto category grows and more bakers get on board with “going keto,” Kimberlee Burrington, director of training, education and technical development, American Dairy Products Institute, suggested developing products that are not traditional. This reduces the chance of consumer disappointment.

“Every consumer has an idea of what a chocolate chip cookie should taste like,” Ms. Burrington said. “When you try to make a chocolate chip cookie keto-friendly, it likely won’t meet the expectations of a person shifting to a keto diet. If you make a bite-size snack, fill it with nuts, nut butters or other high-fat/low-carb inclusions, you have a chance of convincing the consumer to buy it.”   

This article is an excerpt from the February 2022 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Keto, click here.